Are Parents Expecting Too Much from Daycares and Preschools?

Parents Expecting Too Much from DaycaresIt’s a common complaint that daycares are failing to adequately prepare kids for kindergarten. Children are apparently arriving at school for the first time without the ability to hold pencils, unable to recognize letters and numbers, and unable to use the bathroom by themselves. In some schools, as many as 80 percent of kids are considered “unprepared.”

I was fortunate to attend a Montessori preschool. I was taught numbers and letters before I started kindergarten. But when I got to kindergarten, I was in the minority. Most kids there hadn’t ever attended an institution before, so they learned the alphabet in kindergarten, at the age of 5. I’ll grant that my Montessori school was exceptional, as there were only 30 kids in the whole institution, so we all got a great deal of individual attention and instruction. Most of my kindergarten classmates hadn’t attended daycare or preschool. Still, many kids from my school went on to to great things, despite the fact that they didn’t begin their formal education until age 5.

What’s with the rush to place kids in structured learning environments at increasingly younger ages? And, are daycares really responsible for teaching kids these things?

My son goes to an outstanding daycare. The staff members are all very caring, the building is clean, they do such a vast range of activities I can’t keep up with it all. He walks in happily every morning, and chatters all the way home every afternoon.

Last week at parents’ night, his key caregiver told me how things are going for him. She showed me his “portfolio,” along with pictures of him playing with his friends, enjoying snack time, and so on. We also discussed milestones, such as physical development, handling and moving, physical coordination and so on. But the milestone discussion led me to the thought: Is this sort of thing turning our kids’ childhoods into some kind of experiment?

daycare staff members have tough jobs. They work long hours, arrange daily activities,  field endless complaints and questions from parents, do mountains of paperwork, and patiently look after young children all day, day after day. And they don’t get paid the big bucks.

But if I thought my son wasn’t happy there, nothing could stop me from withdrawing him from that facility.

I can always see how good his day was by the grin on his face, the pile of dirty clothes I’m given at the end of the day, and the pen marks, paint and glitter smudged over his face and hands and into his hair. I know he loves it there. I can see he’s having a great time. I know he’s being cared for well.

Parents Expecting Too Much from DaycaresStaff members certainly tell me when he has issues with socializing or participating in activities. The staff shouldn’t be tasked with trying to fit her play into a government-established framework en the government really has larger issues it should be dealing with.

It seems like school districts keep increasing class sizes and ratios in daycares, while at the same time expecting more and more from the daycare providers.

Should it really be the responsibility of the daycare staff to teach kids how to use the bathroom? Is it their job to teach kids the alphabet and how to hold a pencil? I’d consider those things to be the parents’ job. daycare staff members certainly can help parents with those things. But those things are not fully their responsibility. If kids leaves daycare unable to use the bathroom by themselves, it’s the parents who have failed, not the daycare staff.

What’s with the obsession to  shove kids into educational settings at younger and younger ages? Throughout history, how many children started school at age 4? Countries in which children achieve higher literacy and numeracy levels tend to start them school later. What’s wrong with letting kids play? What horrors do government officials think would result if kids just played and spent time with their friends until they’re five years old?

I’ve heard from plenty of friends who are teachers who have seen parents dropping kids still in diapers at school for their first day of kindergarten. Whether they attended daycare or not, it was the parents’ responsibility to potty-train their children. Perhaps help should be offered for parents who find the school year rolling around and their kindergartner-to-be still can’t consistently use the bathroom by themselves?

In areas where kids are starting kindergarten without basic capabilities, the parents should receive more support earlier on. Instead of expecting daycare staff to prepare children for school, we should be encouraging parents to take a more active role in teaching their children. More funding should be allocated for healthcare, so children with issues can have them treated, and help can be offered to parents whose skills are lacking. Most parents genuinely  want to help their children succeed. Many need some extra help, but “help” doesn’t mean someone else to parent for them!

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